New York Rangers Emerge As Stanley Cup Contenders Going Into Playoffs

It’s already been 28 years since the famous sign.

Nearly three decades, already, since a New York Rangers fan hoisted a placard with the words “Now I Can Die in Peace” after his team won the 1994 Stanley Cup at Madison Square Garden.

That ended a 54-year drought. New Jersey bettors now wonder if the Rangers can end the 28-year dry period that followed. They are being nudged to “drop the bucks”, a shift in the common phrase “drop the puck.”

The Rangers notched their 51st win on April 21, just one win shy of the year they won it all. And they play two fewer games now.

The Rangers enter their final regular-season stretch with 108 points, tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes, for the third most in all of hockey. The Florida Panthers (118) and Colorado Avalanche (116) are above everybody else.

The Rangers bandwagon gambling ride can encompass three phases, like three periods in a hockey game, for bettors at NJ sportsbooks.

Betting On NY Rangers Hockey

First period

Gamblers can bet on a match race for the regular-season Metropolitan Division championship. The Rangers were tied with the Hurricanes at 108 points with four games left and were a good price at DraftKings, at +135 to win the division, on April 21. That changed from +150 on Thursday and +170 on Wednesday.

The value is strong because the odds could have been +100 for two teams with the same point total. As of April 22, both teams had four games remaining and they meet each other once more, at Madison Square Garden, on April 26.

That game will be pivotal.

The Rangers play their last three games at home, starting with the Carolina matchup.

Oddsmakers don’t miss a trick, however, so what’s behind the plus number at this point? The Hurricanes have the tiebreak based on regulation victories. All the pressure to overcome the deadlock is on the Rangers.

This is just one of the first-period entry betting points for a team that generated late-season interest.

In late February, some NJ gamblers grabbed a unique FanDuel odds boost. When both the Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins trailed Carolina by several points, the offer paid +400 for either the Rangers or Penguins to win the division.

It was an unlikely development, hence the hefty price, because the Rangers and Penguins still had to play one another and figured to hurt each other’s chances. But with four games left in the season, Rangers bettors look smart for the attempt.

They have what’s basically an even-money shot now with a +400 payoff.

Second period: Winning the East

The Rangers are +800 to win the Eastern Conference at DraftKings. That would require three best-of-seven series victories in order to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. The last time the Rangers got this far was in 2014, where they lost to the Los Angeles Kings.

Third period: The Stanley Cup

This has the biggest price, as it would require four playoff-round victories. This is of course elusive, but the Rangers don’t have odds as prohibitive as in year’s past.

They have both good betting value and respect from the sportsbooks.

What in the world of Mark Messier is going on here?

“We’re definitely getting futures play on them now,” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told NJGS.

“You could have gotten them for +3500 not that far back, but now we have them about +1600. They have really enjoyed a fine season.”

“When you take a look at the league, we have the Colorado Avalanche short at +350 to win it all. The Florida Panthers are +550. But you can’t have everybody low. If you have teams down at this range, some other teams are going to get higher prices. The Rangers are one of those teams.”

FanDuel has a similar perspective on the Rangers’ futures. It shows the following odds:

  • Avalanche +350
  • Panthers +550
  • Flames +900
  • Lightning +1000
  • Maple Leafs +1100
  • Rangers +1600
  • Bruins +1600

Caesars has the same betting odds as FanDuel.

As the regular season winds down, gamblers will have to look a little harder to obtain differences between the books. The operators have reached a similar determination about how they evaluate the landscape.

Some wrinkles may appear along the way, as books may shift the line to entice some action.

Analyzing The New York Rangers’ Success

How are they doing it? Between the pipes, courtesy of goalie Igor Shesterkin.

Outstanding Rangers teams have always enjoyed stellar netminders. And they are getting it now with Shesterkin’s nearly historic net minding.

His save percentage reached .942 in March, challenging Hall of Famer Jacques Plante’s single-season record of .944 while he played for Toronto in 1970-71.

Shesterkin’s save percentage “dwindled” to .936 in late March, but he is invoking images of great Rangers goalies over the years.

There are shades of Mike Richter, who was in net when they captured the cup. He had a save percentage of .910 and stood on his head for the last several minutes of their cup-clinching 3-2 triumph over the Vancouver Canucks.

There are shades of Henrik Lundqvist, their goalie when the Rangers last reached the finals in 2014.

Is something special coming here? Bettors think so.

The Rangers recently defeated the Philadelphia Flyers and the Detroit Red Wings 4-0. They then stopped the Winnipeg Jets 3-0.

The Rangers then beat their cross-town nemesis, the New York Islanders, 6-3 on Thursday night. Three straight shutouts and another blowout.

Four straight games in which they gave the goal and a half and covered.

Kreider Breakout Season Sparks Offense

Chris Kreider has been in the league for 10 seasons. He never scored 40 goals in a season, nor even 30.

This year he did the entirely unpredictable feat of reaching 50. Kreider notched his 51st against the Islanders.

Only three other Rangers ever did this.

Adam Graves accomplished the feat the year the Rangers won the cup. Vic Hadfield reached that number in 1971-72, when the Rangers reached the finals, losing to the Boston Bruins.

And Jaromir Jagr did it in 2005-06. That Rangers team fizzled out early in the playoffs.

Artemi Panarin, with four assists Thursday, reached a career-high 96 points and flirts with his first-ever 100-point season.

Other things have been cropping up that only happen in cup years. On Thursday, Andrew Copp notched a hat trick (in the first period).

Rangers Dominate Regional Landscape

Some could point to the Rangers’ 27-23-6-mark last year, good for 60 points, as a sign they were ready for a turnaround. Because the Rangers missed the playoffs last season, they remained under the radar.

Major expectations followed the Islanders, who were moving into the new UBS Arena this year. But 11 games without a victory sealed their fate early in the season.

The Flyers remain a mess, as they were last season.

The New Jersey Devils provided the biggest gambling gift of all to anyone able to seize it last October.

The Devils were somehow projected for 90.5 points at DraftKings. Imagine whaling that one.

Well, some NJ bettors did and they will collect when the Devils finish the season in the 60s.

This is a different looming postseason for NJ hockey bettors. Three of the teams they follow (the Flyers, Devils, and Islanders) are sitting home in the playoffs.

Only the Rangers remain.

The question now for bettors is, how far can they take this ride?


AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

About the Author

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others.